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Everything Vancouver travellers need to know about flying over the holidays

Be prepared or possibly be sorry.
Metro Vancouver weather is expected to include several days of snowfall in the coming days, which will affect flights at YVR.

Locals looking to fly out of B.C.'s biggest airport over the holidays might want to have a contingency plan in place. 

While many flights will likely go according to schedule — even with a sizable increase in passenger volumes — others will be significantly delayed or cancelled. 

The bitterly-cold Arctic air mass that will make its way into the Lower Mainland over the weekend has far-reaching effects. In fact, most of North America will have localized ramifications from its glacial reach, wreaking havoc on flight schedules to numerous destinations worldwide. 

Metro Vancouver weather is expected to include several days of snowfall in the coming days, although the exact timing of the weather event is still uncertain at this time. If you have a flight scheduled, there are several things to consider before you leave.

FlightAware spokesperson and aerospace expert Kathleen Bangs told Vancouver Is Awesome in a previous interview that flight prices may have been higher for the holiday season because they didn't drop during the shoulder season and many people will be visiting family for the first time since pre-pandemic. 

What this means, of course, is that travellers should expect to see regular holiday levels of air passenger traffic at airports — and that generally means longer waits and crowding. 

What to do if you have a flight booked at Vancouver International Airport over the holidays

Travellers should check weather conditions several days in advance of their flight. But they shouldn't only check the weather in their departure city and destination. Instead, they should look at the weather across North America, as it has an impact on the network, Bangs advises. 

If possible, booking a backup flight provides an option during peak travel times when cancellations are likely. Depending on the fare class that you book, you can cancel the backup flight if needed and use the credit for future travel. 

Always book travel insurance with trip interruption, trip cancellation, medical for over at least $5 million, and comprehensive baggage loss and delay. Read the fine print closely. 

New regulations require airlines to provide additional refund requirements to customers who have flights delayed by over three hours. 

The new rules require Canadian airlines to provide customers with "either a refund or rebooking, at the passenger's choice, when there is a flight cancellation, or a lengthy delay, due to a situation outside the airline's control," according to the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA). 

Find out everything you need to know about the new flight rules and what to do to keep your money.

Travel tips from YVR over the holidays

The teams at YVR are closely monitoring the evolving five-day forecast, including temperature, wind, visibility, and snow.

"This allows our team to plan and prepare accordingly," a spokesperson for YVR told V.I.A. in a statement. 

While inclement weather can reduce the airport's ability to operate at its highest safety standards, it works with its airline partners to manage arrivals and departures as teams work to clear any snow and ice from aprons, taxiways, runways, and de-ice aircraft.

  • Travellers are encouraged to check flight details with YVR online or with their airline before arriving. By checking in before you arrive, you can avoid lining up to get your boarding pass and it will appear on your smart device. You may also print off a copy.
  • Travellers to the United States can also "skip the line" by reserving a time slot via the new YVR Express program. You may reserve a spot up to 72 hours in advance. 
  • YVR advises travellers to arrive at least two hours before domestic flights and three hours before U.S. and international ones. However, you should give yourself more time -- and more time on your commute to the airport -- during inclement weather.
  • If you are driving, be sure to pre-book your parking. To avoid the roads, consider taking the convenient Canada Line, which will take you directly to the airport from downtown Vancouver in 30 minutes. 
  • ArriveCAN is now an optional tool for travellers who want to save time at the airport by providing their customs and immigration declaration in advance to the CBSA (up to 72 hours before they arrive in the country).
  • Order your meals in advance with YVR Order Now.
  • If you are picking someone up use the Cellphone Waiting Area, which is a complimentary 30-minute parking lot, with free WiFi. Do not circle in the terminals.

Travellers with questions can ask the YVR Guest Experience team members or Green Coat volunteers. They are stationed at Information Counters and throughout the terminal.